July 02, 2007

Help Me Help You Much like myself, my best friend Jackie is a little bit insane, yet delightfully charming. She is a program coordinator of sorts for a YMCA in Richmond, Virginia (although I just call her a "babywrangler"). For a period of time, she had to drive a dirty white minibus, which I forced her to record on camera (although I was sworn to never show anyone else, a rule I have absolutely broken). With her Bachelors of Fine Arts, she has created art out of gum balls, bath tubs, string, and countless sketches of robot vaginas. We have been close since high school when, as a reformed "bad kid" implanted from another school, Jackie and I hit it off immediately, faking loud, swear-filled arguments in public places. We've been there for each other in the most difficult of moments. But ever since Jackie took a picture of herself that I find to strikingly resemble every author's photo that has appeared on the jacket of any self-help, humor, or C-list memoir published since 1975, she may have tipped the scale on who drinks the most Crazy Juice. Below, you'll find the picture and my imagined titles of Jackie Mancini's unwritten bestseller. And You Say I'm Difficult? Stories From The Maternal Underbelly Battlestar Diabetica: Sugar-Free Living Ain't So Easy After All, Huh? Blame The Dog: How Funny Smells Make For Good Times Mom's The Word: Training Your Mother-In-Law Like The Dog That She Is My Space, Your Kid: Protecting Your Child From The Dangers of Social Networking Websites Nutcracker Buffet Pocket Change: It's A Jew Thing Shoot Your Wad: One Woman's Fight For Gun Control Shut Up And Drive & Other Stories About The First Time Take My Husband, Please! Takeoffs And Landings: How I Learned To Control My Fear Of Power Walking Who Skinned My Cat? Yes, I'd Like Fries With That Also... I wasn't lying.
How 'Sex' Ruined New York 2nd Avenue Deli. CBGB's. The Atlantic Yards. Tower Records. The Bottom Line. The Astor Place parking lot. And now Rose's Turn (which, I should add, I've never had much interest in frequenting, although its credit is due in its stature as a downtown landmark). Having only lived in New York post-high school (that makes six years), I've seen my share of gentrification. Although I know that I very well have something to do with it (I mean, hell, I am a college-educated Jew with Kiehl's herbal cleanser and a subscription to Wired), I'm not necessarily waxing nostalgic for the days when crime and poverty were rampant, either (I had good reason as a kid to make sure all the car doors were locked when the squeegee guys lurked at the head of the Manhattan Bridge). But the plasticizing of New York has become terribly evident in the ubiquitous spoiled, excessive behavior exhibited by the young, rich, and douchey. These princes and princesses are, indeed, turning neighborhoods once defined by cultural freshness laid by the newly-settled immigrants into amusement parks for the excessively wealthy and materialistic. Again, I'm not saying I've never been inside a Starbucks, eCommerce, or Pinkberry (fuck you, I love soft-serve ice cream and the taste of vanilla yogurt - sue me!). But the trust-fund babies had to be tickled into the idea of moving to New York somehow or another, and - for a very select, yet extremely prevalent female majority of these post-millennial yuppies - the source of their action comes, I firmly believe, in the form of four wildly influential, colorfully fictionalized characters on a certain HBO series. I get it, ladies. You're wealthy (even if you pretend you aren't), you're successful (even if we never see you work), and you're attractive (not so fast, Square Pegs!). But ever since you started describing yourself as "fabulous" in every episode of Sex & The City, you quickly became the sassy, feather boa-draped fantasy of many-a suburban girl, swiftly convincing them that Manhattan was The Place To Be for wannabe sex columnists/sluts. Realistically, would anyone have guessed that one show - on pay cable, nevertheless! - would persuade a nation of American girls to dress like retarded nymphs and warmly embrace dialogue that sounds as if it were written by Neil Simon on a Luna Bar bender? Well, no. But it happened. They're here, and they own the city. They come in the form of whiny PR girls in giant sunglasses, short skirts and ballet flats. They've singlehandedly turned the image strong-willed, driven New York femininity (Susan Sontag, Rhoda Morganstern) into that of a flitty, pouty fairy (Julia Allison, Tinsley Mortimer, Michelle Tanner squared). They can be found downtown, after midnight, patronizing bodega cashiers as they fumble to pay for a candy bar before linking arms with their girls to continue another "crazy" night downtown. They read chick lit without shame, they talk like exhausted gay men, and their cocktail of choice must match the shade of their halter top. Unfortunately, it's likely too late to win the battle. For every New York dweller who brings to mind the Buchmans on Mad About You (normal, middle-class, mildly annoying in unflattering denim), there are now three Carrie Bradshaws. So, rats, take note: until you start chain-smoking while pondering the validity of stupid fucking puns about your coital desires, steer clear of the young, pesky, and plastic.

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